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Egypt’s Revolution Media: A Question of Credibility

While most sectors were hard hit in the aftermath of the January 25 uprising, the Egyptian media seems to be flourishing with more and more satellite TV channels making their way to the screen.

The competition is fierce as some channels have hired celebrity talk show hosts while others are introducing new faces.

But traditional media is no longer the star.

A common feeling of resentment towards the coverage of the revolution in both state-owned and private media has led young activists to launch their alternative media outlets using social networks.

A number of online platforms have become the main source of revolution-related news across Egypt, fiercely competing against online portals of daily newspapers like Al-Shorouk and Al-Masry Al-Youm .

But even among these organized citizen  news networks which depend on social media networking for volunteer reporters, photographers and editors, the competition is strong.

Applying the motto “from the people to the people”, citizen journalists formed Rassd News Network (R.N.N), 25Egypt and Mayadeen Masr News Network (M.M.N.N) (which translates to “Egypt’s squares”), to name a few. Such alternative news sources have attracted more than a million followers on Twitter and Facebook despite having  no official website.

High Competition

However, R.N.N is about to do this: they will soon  launch their own website on http://www.rassd.com/.

The news formula adopted in the website will be short news stories of 140 characters (like Twitter) to suit the internet audience .

Rassd, which stands for Rakeb (observe), Sawwer (shoot) and Dawwen (blog), played a major role in exposing fraud in the last Egyptian parliamentary elections in November 2010. R.N.N was recently ranked as the 6th most influential media in the Arab world (according to Media Source Company) following Al Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Al-Masry Al-Youm- and ahead of CNN!

This social media news model soon extended to Libya, Morocco, Syria, Jerusalem and Turkey where Rassd established local networks.

But, how do these news networks function?

One of them is composed of four different committees; one for editing the news, another responsible for correspondents all over Egypt, a third for multimedia such as photos and videos and the fourth for public relations, development and training. They connect through closed groups on Facebook and meet at coffee shops.

Alternative voices are more and more included in the mainstream media through what’s called ‘periphery to the center’ mechanism. Social media are gaining importance as  sources and as actors,” said Hanan Badr, teaching assistant at Cairo University, who expects traditional and alternative media to merge.

However, easy access and lack of professionalism might make the online social media less professional than the institutional media… and erroneous  news can be broadcast, Badr warned.

Merge Possible?

Most, if not all, talk shows have introduced social media correspondents in their working teams. People chosen for this job are usually bloggers or online activists who are social media savvy, but not necessarily journalists.

This is how the shows think they can compete with  minute by minute news coverage.

Tahrir newspaper, launched nearly two months ago, has status and tweets published on almost every page to attract social media audience.

Tahrir TV channel, headed by the same journalist “Ibrahim Issa” also shows tweets on the screen.

Now, almost all TV channels and newspapers have Twitter and Facebook accounts.

However, some new TV channels were launched in the aftermath of the yet-to-be revolution.

New Channels Questioned

Egypt is drowning in a media pool and witnessing a period of unrest, ambiguity and liquidity,” said Yasser Abdel Aziz, a media expert. “This boom is due to increased funding, but some of the funders don’t care about the media business: they are in it for political gain. These owners want to set the agenda for public opinion,” Abdel Aziz added.

Egypt has no media system, Abdel Aziz said. Freedom of expression has flourished  after the fall of the last regime, but the industry itself isn’t organized adequately when it comes to  transparency of funding sources, ownership and the values and principles that govern media outlets.

This is where the danger lies,” said Abdel Aziz.

The most talked-about model is CBC channel (Cairo Broadcasting Corporation). It was launched in early June and quickly labeled “the remnants channel” or “qanat elfoloul” (linking it to the remnants of the former regime).

Controversy looms over the owner of CBC, Mohamed Al-Amin, an Egyptian businessman who has worked abroad for 30 years. Al-Amin is the partner of the old regime’s business tycoon, Mansour Amer, in many projects like Porto Marina and Porto Sokhna.

CBC isn’t Al-Amin’s first media venture. He is a partner in Youm7 newspaper, whose editor Khaled Salah. Salah claimed (in a recent interview with the Pan-Arab Al-Hayat newspaper) that Al-Amin, Mohamed El-Morshidy (another tycoon under Mubarak’s regime) and Alaa El-Kahky, (owner of Media Line Advertising Agency), recently partnered with Youm7′s chairman,  after the withdrawal of Ashraf Safwat El-Sherif, the son of Mubarak-era speaker of the Shoura Council, now detained pending investigations. Ashraf has since fled to Paris.

Presenters on CBC include prominent media figures who were closely linked to Mubarak’s regime.

More channels and newspapers are expected to be launched in the coming months as Egypt awaits parliamentary elections. With no laws to regulate ownership transparency, the media in Egypt appears to be the best bet for Mubarak’s survivors to continue their fight against the revolution .

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